G.P. Gottlieb is the author of the Whipped and Sipped cozy mystery series. You can find out more about her on her website, www.gpgottlieb.com, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.
If I were called to the witness stand, I’d immediately admit that I made up the three mysteries I wrote and someone else published, without really knowing a single thing about solving crimes. Except for what I’ve read or seen on television, bad dreams that have kept me awake in the night, and a few insignificant brushes with bad guys, I am neither a fountain of crime information nor a reliable witness.
There, I’ve said it. So, sue me if you read one of my books and thought I knew anything about law enforcement or police work or catching bad guys. The first time I even met a policeman, it was a scary situation in which I’d been accosted by an older boy at the playground, forgot to tell my mother about it, and got dragged to the station after another girl in the neighborhood had a worse experience with someone who sounded like the same person who approached me. I felt horrible about it afterwards but did not get the correct answer when asked why I thought the bad thing happened to that other little girl.
I might have said something like, “she wasn’t a fast enough runner,” but thankfully, nobody remembers the details. Also, thankfully, young girls today learn that being touched by strangers is wrong, that they must immediately inform an adult, that telling the story can help protect other young girls. It wasn’t spoken about back then.
I’m not giving names and dates or anything, so you can’t check the veracity of anything I’m writing here, but my next visit to the police station was after a man hiding in the ladies’ room of another city park near where we lived, jumped out and tried to grab my sister. She only has a vague memory about it, but I remember my mom rebuking me for worrying out loud that the park’s annual Easter egg hunt might be cancelled because of a bad guy on the loose. Again, nobody explained what it meant or told us how to handle inappropriate behavior back in the 1960s.
Happily, my sister was also a good runner, and hightailed it out of there, and like what happened to me, it later came out publicly when that predator nabbed someone else. I’d like to say that my sister and I learned our lesson, but remember the part about me being an unreliable witness? And she barely remembers the Easter egg hunts!
Because of my previous experience, I got a second helping of the lecture reminding us to tell a grown up when anything bad happens. I still remember being disappointed in the police officer who questioned my sister, because he didn’t ask the embarrassing questions that the other officer asked me. That didn’t go over well with the grownups either.
Over the next few years, my sister and I acted like international spies, doing a perimeter check of every room we entered to make sure there weren’t any bad guys hiding, facing the door in restaurants so nobody could sneak up on us, and never going into a public restroom without checking under every stall. My sister just remembers fearing everything and everyone.
We also became a little less confident in ourselves – maybe it wasn’t that I was such a fast runner, but instead I got away because it was too much trouble for the molester to follow me. Or maybe it was because there were other people in the park, and he could only reach a 9-year-old girl if she was a space cadet like me, who at the time, didn’t pay attention to her surroundings and blithely sipped water from the fountain without noticing a creepy guy in the bushes.
That’s when I started making up stories, mostly in my head. I didn’t save any of them. In my stories, I was the hero who always got out of tricky situations. Sometimes the robbers would crack up at my jokes and forgot to take my quarter (which is all we needed to buy candy at the Five and Dime), or I’d magically foil their plans by diverting them into a room that could be locked from the outside with a hook and eye latch, like a gate.
We lived on the first floor of a two-flat, and often spent summer Sundays at a city beach, but in my stories, we lived on a grand estate next to the sea, with gardens and cooks who offered different flavors of ice cream for dessert every evening. I imagined bad guys sneaking onto our beach and trying to kidnap one of my siblings or break our windows. I was the one who always saved the day in some heroic fashion, even though I was a skinny little girl with buck teeth who typically froze at the slightest hint of anything scary.
So where did I learn about estates and bad guys, mysteries, and adventures? Except for those early brushes with evil, I admit that I learned everything I know from reading books. When I wasn’t practicing the piano as a child, I was reading; day and night; in bed, at the beach, at the kitchen table, or in the living room while everyone was watching television.
I might have waited many years to complete, submit, and get my first mystery published, but I’ve been making up stories since I was a child. Unverifiable stories, true, but again, I never claimed to be a reliable witness.